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Gadsden State to observe Black History Month 

Gadsden, Ala. — Gadsden State Community College will join with other organizations, communities and educational institutions and advocates across the country to recognize Black History Month during February.  This year's theme for Black History Month, "Black Health and Wellness,” acknowledges the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine and considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be healthy. 

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the scholar now known as “the father of Black history,” announced the first Negro History Week in February 1926.  Woodson chose February for the observance because it was the birth month of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, civil rights advocates. He saw Negro History Week as a way to expand the celebration of these two men and encourage Americans to study the little-known history of an entire people.

“Black History Month is an opportunity for community engagement, to celebrate Black history and spotlight Black achievements,” said Dr. Michele Bradford, director of Legal Affairs at Gadsden State and chair of the Black History Month Committee.  “Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States for close to 100 years, and Gadsden State has hosted programs and activities in past years. We’re excited to be able to celebrate this month again with the community, students, administration, faculty and staff.” 

Gadsden State’s Valley Street Campus will host several Lunch and Learn student engagement events during the month featuring college administrators and staff as guest speakers. Dr. Aletta Williamson, dean of Enrollment and Retention, will speak at noon Feb. 9 in Prater Hall. Sonya DeRamus, the outreach advisor for Upward Bound, will present at the Lunch and Learn scheduled for noon Feb. 15 in Prater Hall. Bradford will round out the Lunch and Learn Series at 11 a.m. Feb. 23 in the Certified Nursing Assistant Building.

“Our campus has a historic legacy of achievement in educating citizens in Etowah County,” said Ricky Tillis, the director of the Valley Street Campus. “It started in 1960 as a private training school for Black veterans who were returning home from the war with an interest in pursuing higher learning but were not allowed to attend the Alabama School of Trades due to segregation.”

Eugene Prater, the founder and first director of Gadsden Vocational Trade School, became a pioneer in higher learning when he fought tirelessly to get the school approved by the Veterans Administration for training under the G.I. Bill.

“For 10 years, until desegregation in 1970, the trade school was the only local technical institution of higher learning enrolling Black Americans in the Gadsden area,” Tillis said.

The campus received the unique Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) designation from the U.S. Department of Education in 1997 because of the historic contribution made to higher education.

“We are very proud of the legacy of our Valley Street Campus and honor the contributions of its founder, Eugene Prater,” said Dr. Kathy Murphy, president of Gadsden State. “His vision has provided excellent opportunities for a new generation of students now studying at the campus. We have great program offerings and the latest technology for our students at the Valley Street Campus which include HVAC, Construction Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Massage Therapy, Certified Nursing Assistant and Medication Assistant.

“Our mission is to continue to enrich, educate and inspire students from every walk of life within all the communities we serve, on all of our campuses, across this nation and around the world as our administrators, faculty and staff work together to prepare students for direct-entry into the workplace or for transfer to a four-year university,” she said.

Many of the events planned for the month will be virtual via social media, Zoom and Gadsden State’s website and YouTube channel, including an introduction by Murphy; a tribute to notable local African-Americans; presentations by Anthony Meyers, leadership expert, and Tony Reddick, the superintendent of Gadsden City Schools; a showcase of African American and international fashion; trivia days; recommended movies for viewing; and visual arts and musical presentations.

Along with the student engagement events at the Valley Street Campus, other in-person events include “A Taste of History” sponsored by the Gadsden State Cafeteria. One day each week, the lunch menu will feature African-American cuisine. The community is invited to attend.  Attendees may purchase lunch for $5 to $10 depending on entrée selection.  The Gadsden State Libraries will also feature “Black History is American History,” a display of books and poems by famous Black authors and poets beginning Feb. 2.


  • Feb. 1   
  • Dr. Kathy Murphy’s Introduction to Black History Month at Gadsden State
  • Notable Local African Americans
  • Feb. 2   
  • Cafeteria: Taste of History - Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes w/Gravy, Squash Casserole, Green Beans & Roll
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Gadsden State Libraries: Book Display Begins
  • Feb. 3
  • Anthony Meyers:  9 am, “We Are History – Ordinary Heroes” / 
  • Feb. 4   
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Recommended Movies:  Selma, Just Mercy, Hidden Figures, Harriet, The Banker
  • Feb. 7   
  • Moving Monday:  Connect, Engage, Uplift
  • Feb. 8   
  • Gadsden State Show Band performance
  • Feb. 9 
  • Lunch & Learn Student Engagement Event (DMS Program):  noon, Dr. Aletta Williamson, Prater Hall Building, Valley Street Campus
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Feb. 10 
  • Recommended Movies:  13th, On the Basis of Sex, The Color of Friendship, 13th, Malcolm X
  • Trivia Facts
  • Feb. 11
  • Cafeteria: Taste of History - Smothered Pork Chops, California Blend, Squash, Rice & Roll
  • Feb. 14 
  • Showcasing African American and International Fashion
  • Feb. 15
  • Tony Reddick:  1:30 pm, “Seize the Day”
  • Cafeteria: Taste of History - Shrimp & Grits, Fried Okra, Corn, White Rice & Roll
  • Lunch & Learn Student Engagement Event (Massage Therapy & Construction Tech):  noon, Ms. Sonya DeRamus, Prater Hall Building, Valley Street Campus
  • Feb. 16 
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Visual Arts Presentation:  GSCC Arts
  • Feb. 18 
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Feb. 21 
  • Notable Local African Americans
  • Feb. 22 
  • Valley Street Campus Spotlight
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Feb. 23 
  • Lunch & Learn Student Engagement Event (HVAC & CNA):  11 a.m., Dr. Michele Bradford, CNA Building, Valley Street Campus
  • Feb. 24 
  • Cafeteria: Taste of History -  Chicken Jambalaya, Glazed Carrots, Fried Okra, Rice & Rolls
  • Feb. 25 
  • Trivia/Facts
  • Feb. 28 
  • Highlights from Black History Month